Every new year I see people declaring that this is the year that they will understand their camera, take better photos, and overcome their perceived photography difficulties, but a lot don’t go anywhere – there’s not an easy magic wand that can be waved to fix it, googling courses will make your head hurt (trust me, I’ve been there), or the courses you can find make the assumption that you live somewhere considerably closer to the equator than one of the poles, that it never rains in your neck of the woods, and that you can just step outside at 4pm to take a photo without any pesky day job managers getting rather irked. Those last sites are usually run by perky ex-cheerleaders too, and I have to admit, there’s only so much hyper-cheer I can take ;o)
I have promised a few people that I would help them in the past, but things have always been busy, so the time has always been ‘later’. It’s later now! I have a plan whereby once a month I will issue you with a challenge that will help you to learn more about your camera. Two weeks later I will write up a post explaining about what kinds of thing you should have seen in the challenge, and will include a linky party for you to show me your efforts. I will try, over the course of time between link ups to get round everyone and do a little critique for you. Does this sound like a plan?
Now the first thing you will need to do is work out what kind of camera you have. A pre-requisite of this challenge series is that you will need to have a camera that allows you to change the settings manually, and unfortunately most compacts do not fall into this category – most phones these days have cameras that will match up with the majority of compacts. On the plus side, the cost of bridge cameras and DSLRs has come down dramatically over the years, with an entry level DSLR going for £200-£300, and a bridge camera coming in at around £100 – £150, especially if you look around in the January sales, or February sales, or, well, there’s usually a sale on or cashback offer somewhere ;o)
Reviewing Your Camera Options:
- Compact cameras are, as the name suggests, compact. They are designed to fit in your pocket, or a teeny wee clutch on a night out, and generally have only one or two buttons. They’re good for quick snaps, but unless you start shelling out for the very high end ones, don’t give you much control over what comes out save for zooming in and out and maybe turning the flash on and off.
- Bridge cameras are there to be a happy medium between a compact and a DSLR. They’re bigger than a compact and usually have a fixed lens, but allow a lot more control over your images since they let you change a lot of your settings.
- The DSLR is the most flexible of the bunch. They have interchangeable lenses, in built and external flash options, and the ability to change every one of your settings if you should feel the need to do so. DSLRs are sold in many price brackets, from the £200 to the £8k + mark, but for the most part, unless you have plans to truly supersize the shot you took of a band in a dark club with flashing lights in order to cover your living room wall, you will be able to take perfectly good shots with the entry level versions. In fact, of all the things to spend money on, spend more money on your lenses than the body if you have the choice.
DSLR Brands & Lenses:
- Don’t get caught up in brand wars! Photography forums are absolutely full of Canon Vs Nikon debates. Both Canon and Nikon produce high quality DSLRs, and the leapfrog each other regularly on who has the most pixels or whatever.
- Be aware that if you are buying a DSLR, you are buying into a system, so check out what is available that will go with your chosen body. The most commonly available lenses and flashguns are for use with Canon and Nikon bodies, whether produced by the brands, or produced by 3rd parties. Sony, Olympus and Pentax also make bodies, but there tends to be less options for them when it comes to lenses and accessories, and they can tend towards the pricier side.
- Sigma, Tamron and Samyang are the main 3rd parties making lenses for several brands of bodies, and are generally cheaper than the name brand option.
- Most entry level packages come with an 18 – 55 mm lens, which allows you to go from a fairly wide angle, to a fair length zoom. Depending on what you want to take photos of you can buy a whole collection of other lenses from 10mm to 800mm, but it’s best to work out what you want to do more of and what you want to change before leaping in to buy things.
I look forward to the tips!
All a bit technical for me as you could probably guess by my rubbish pic quality most of the time, but I think it's lovely of you to give your time online like this to help folks who do have an interest. Bit of a glutton for punishment aren't you though? – you just couldn't live without a linky party post-FAL! 😉
What a great idea – thanks for giving up your time! I'm useless with a camera, don't have a good eye and only have a compact but I know I can alter some settings on it. I will be reading with interest, even if I don't join in!
Can't tell you how thrilled I am to see you doing this! You know I've wanted to improve…I try for a bit, then just kinda forget. I look foward to following along and seeing what I can do! 😉
p.s. assume I can copy your 'logo' for a blog post?
Fabulous Katy! I have an entry level Nikon DSLR that's 5-years-old and I've seen reviewed as one of Nikon's worst cameras, yet I can still take great pictures (with a bit of work!). So many think you need the latest and greatest to get a great shot! I look forward to what you have to teach!
Awesome!! This just might get me using my fancy camera instead of my phone.
I have a Canon 60D and absolutely love it. I would like to know if there's a trick to videotaping with it. Mine would just cut me off so I've never used it to videotape but I really would like to. Maybe it's my memory card?
This will be so good Katy – your photos are amazing!!! I have a Nikon D31000 DSLR and bought a Nikkor 55-200 lens for it last year as although I would have loved to get a 55-300 one, it was much cheaper !!
Thank you and I'm really looking forward to this. I have a Nikon D5300 I bought a year ago and I have played around a bit but I think having a challenge–and actually reading the manual–will be a lot of fun!
I am so very excited about this. Thank you for doing this!!!!
I'm looking forward to this but I hope you explain what those lens names mean in terms of what they can do.
I have a Nikon 3100 with its stock lenses (18-55mm and 55-100mm) and the 35mm. When I bought it a few years ago, it was before I was quilting and I was trying to find a hobby so I spent a lot of time looking up photography blogs and what-not at the time. I could get the settings but it's the composition type stuff I've always struggled with. And now I've started quilting and haven't looked at a photography site in forever I've forgotten all the tips etc. I learnt LOL. This will be good to try and learn those again!
Sounds like a great idea Katy, I am always up for a challenge.
Wow, I'm really interested to see what you come up with! I have a Canon Powershot with a non-interchangeable lens, but it does have some manual features.
I'm sure this will be fantastic Katy, thank you. I might not manage to take part but I'll definitely read your tips! Juliex
I think it's possible that I was one of the peeps determined last year to learn more about my camera, maybe the year before that too.
Although much of your post might have been written in a foreign language I would like to jump in and try along.
Cool. I'm in the bridge category so we'll see if I'll be able to play along. I have Canon G16 in case you are curious.
I have a son rather addicted to photographing every move he makes (wonder where he gets that from!), and I was just talking to him about you! This is so very timely, and I hope we can play along, as we are in the bridge category too…but looking ahead to dslr in our near future may make this a lurker so paradise 😉 thanks so much for this opportunity to learn!
Excellent!! I am in in in!! I have a nikon blah blah with a bird watching blah blah lens and dont know any of the other words, so this challenge is really speaking to me, lol!! Thanks so much for doing this!! XX!
Good stuff! Looking forward to more tips for sure! I have a canon t3 and need to use it more often, or as often as my phone/tablet cameras.
I have the 7D too with 17-40, 24-70 and the 50 f/1.4 which I love but lately almost all I've been taking is with my Fuji XE1 with 18mm. Just loving that camera! I did a photo series over the summer posting once a week and it was a lot of work – once a month with a challenge sounds like a brilliant idea and a great way to practice. Best way to learn! Will definitely join in!
Brilliant Katie , did you read my mind re camera and january ? I have a canin eos 600 d and only occasionally veer off auto , for sports pictures mainly . So , I'm in !!!
Don't think my comment uploaded , apology if two comments . I have a canon eos 600d and would love it get to grips with it .?i promise myself this every january !
That picture is amazing! I have a Nikon D80 – DLSR. I don't use it as often as I would like anymore, but once upon a time I did a lot of photography.
I'm really looking forward to your challenges!
What a fabulous photo, very professional!!!
I can't wait for this, I've got a Nikon D3200 with the standard 18-55 lens.
Great idea. I think I'll try and play along. I usually leave my camera on auto and choose one of the menu settings. I'm one of those ones who keeps meaning to learn how to use it properly but haven't gotten around to it.
I'm going to enjoy this challenge
Oh this is wonderful. I have a gorgeous Nikon that my hubby bought me and it's not being used in the right way at all so I'm in in in with this and thank you genuinely for organising this.
I'm definitely going to join in and am glad I have stopped by during my catching up. Thank you, I sure need some help.
thank you for offering this opportunity. I have had my Nikon for over a year now and have so much to learn. I do not have exchangeable lenses.
Thank you for this, I just received an upgrade from my phone and compact to a Nikon in the bridge category. My son upgraded to a beautiful Nikon and gave me his Nikon Coolpix P90. I would like to learn about all the settings etc… before jumping into a higher priced system, that I may or may not "need" Looking forward to the challenges!
Brilliant! I have a Canon EOS m which I would love to be able to use better. Looking forward to it 🙂
Wish I had more than just a point-and-shoot little Canon but I will follow along and just try to absorb the info!
Here's a thought…as you add a lesson why don't you add a link to the bottom of this post to keep them all together for future…or don't forget to add it to your tutorial tab OR even better…make a new tab!!:)
I have been procrastinating forever on replacing my kit lens with something that does something similar but I just can't decide. I want a good cover all small lens for street/travel photography type of things. I'm also waiting to see what chief has bought me for Christmas! I'll look forward to these posts.
I got here from another blogger and I just got my brand new canon rebel. I haven't even put the lens on! eek! But by golly I realized my favourite art tool was a camera so …. thanks for this opportunity.
elle, again. slightly frustrated. I am ordering the 'dummy book' . Perhaps I can catch up after I figure out how to upload photos and all. sheesh!
Since I most "retired" I have been off the grid with regarding to blog reading. I have missed SO much. So I'm going to catch up on your posts. Thanks, Katy!